Three little questions

Dazzled by all the electric vehicle chatter on blogs and in the mainstream media, a few of us wandered down to Justin Herman Square in San Francisco to see what was billed by organizers as “the first all-electric car show to demonstrate the new technologies on the market.”

The show featured only a plug-in Prius, a Volt, a couple Leafs, some charging stations, and two Brammo motorcycles. Inside the conference hall, Mission Motors was showing off a motorcycle that appeared to be more about racing than day-to-day use.

No Tesla, no Fisker, no Insight, etc. So that was a little disappointing.

We did get a chance to chat with some of the folks who were manning the displays, which led to some interesting exchanges.

For example, I asked the gentleman representing the Leaf whether I’d be able to make it from San Francisco to Palo Alto and back, a distance of about 70 miles round-trip. Since he’d said the range on the vehicle was 60-100 miles per charge, and the folks at Nissan have said between 47 and 138, I was a bit surprised when he assured me it would be no problem, and told him so.

His response: “Oh well, so long as you don’t take (Highway) 280.” Long pause. “280’s got hills.”

Nobody wants an electric car more than I do, but worrying about whether the hills on the Interstate will drain my battery is pretty much the definition of “range anxiety” in my book. Clearly the Leaf is made for shorter hops.

We wandered into the hall to escape the rain and chat with the representative from Mission Motors, which makes, among other things, an Yves Behar-designed beauty of a bike, the Mission One PLE. I described the conversation I’d just had about range, and asked whether that was the first question everyone asked.

“Nope,” he said, “it’s how fast? That’s the first one. How fast? How far? How much? In that order.”

OK, I guess that’s what you’d ask a guy selling a racing motorcycle. But I thought it was a nice summary of what everyone is looking for in vehicles were electric to replace gasoline. We’re used to driving fast, we’re used to driving hundreds of miles on a tank of gas, and we’re used to paying less and less for increasing quality.

We’re also used to change, so with any luck, as the electric vehicle makers come up with the right answers to these three questions, we’ll see a big surge in purchases. But I sure hope those questions are on big posters in every electric vehicle development shop in the country. Otherwise it’s going to be a long replacement cycle ahead.

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erik

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  1. Hiuno - March 31, 2011

    We’ve got a long way to go until a pure electric car is going to be successful, both economicly and good for the environment. It may be great PR, but a good hybrid is still, and will remain for some time, the best way to go.

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